Memorandum submitted by the Chartered
Institute of Environmental Health
I refer to the Committee's invitation dated
11 November and write on behalf of the allied organisations
below. Though some may already have had contact with you on their
own part and each expects to respond to the Department of Energy
and Climate Change's consultation in due course, we wanted to
take the opportunity of your Inquiry to register some common concerns
about the draft National Policy Statements (NPSs) for energy (but
which may arise in connection with the other NPSs to come).
Like, we suspect, most other interested parties
we are struggling with the sheer volume of material (including
the Ports NPS) published together (which was far from ideal) and
the concerns we express here are restricted to matters of some
principles we believe they should reflect. It may be worth emphasising
at the beginning that we are not ideologically opposed to the
planning regime of which NPSs are a part, nevertheless because
of (without exaggeration) the enormous influence which NPSs will
have in that regime it is important that they are comprehensive,
take account of everything they should do, and direct the Infrastructure
Planning Commission (IPC) wisely.
That said, in no particular order, our concerns
1. Different infrastructure projects may be,
to an extent, interdependent, eg where a power generation station
will be dependent on developments in the supply grid, but it is
important that consent for one does not make consent for another
a fait accompli and the NPSs need to provide for applications
to be considered in any necessary wider context.
2. Related to that, serial proposals for related
projects eg for a generating station followed by a road or rail
link (or, perhaps, a series of applications in respect of a single,
large project eg for building A followed by building B) raise
concerns about cumulative impacts and again, NPSs need to provide
for each to be considered in their full context.
3. The active participation of Local Planning
Authorities (LPAs) is an important part of the decision-making
process in particular in the production of Local Impact Reports.
Such Reports are likely to require considerable effort on the
part of planners, supported by their environmental health colleagues
and while both local authority manpower generally is under increasing
pressure and the government has said it will not provide additional
funding for LPAs for this purpose, the IPC needs guidance on how
to proceed where a LPA is unable to take part appropriately. The
consequence of such a failure is not just a technical matter,
of course, but would concern our national obligation to facilitate
adequate public participation in the process too.
4. While health will be a material consideration
in applications, Health Impact Assessments should be expressly
required in appropriate cases alongside Environmental Impact Assessments,
using the WHO's wide definition of "health". We would
also like to suggest that the IPC should contain Commissioners
with suitable expertise in environment and health.
5. The NPSs should generally be more directory
in their language, ie the purpose of policy being more than mere
guidance, there should be more "must"s than "should"s
in their texts, directing the IPC more in what (if not how) to
consider rather than, apparently, leaving so much to its discretion
or to what might be suggested to it by participants in a particular
application. That is necessary in our view both to ensure thoroughness
and so that its decisions reflect a truly strategic view; it would
help too if the various NPSs took a more similar form (the draft
for Ports differing from those for energy).
6. In particular in the absence of a national
spatial plan which integrates plans for jobs, housing and tackling
climate change with those for energy, transport and water, NPSs
need to reflect spatial planning principles and to take more overt
account of other planning guidance if the nation is to be certain
that it will get the right infrastructure in the right place and
address national needs in locally sensitive ways.
7. There needs to be some mapping of existing
pollution controls to identify potential "residual pollution",
ie not covered by predictive pollution control regimes and which
therefore needs to be controlled through planning conditions.
8. Clearer guidance needs to be given on the
legitimate limits to "associated developments".
9. The scope of Environmental Impact Assessments
should not be limited by NPSs but should be a matter for the applicant
in agreement with LPAs and the IPC while their influence should
be left to the IPC; it would help if the guidance on general impacts,
currently part of the NPSs, were removed and issued as associated
10. The Appraisal of Sustainability process is
considered to carry risk related to compliance with the SEA Directive
(2001/42/EC); of particular concern is the approach taken to the
consideration of "reasonable alternatives", with the
Assessment of Sustainability Reports focussing on alternative
approaches to the format of the NPS documents rather than appraising
substantive issues related to energy policy.
We hope these comments will assist the Inquiry.
Also on behalf of:
The Royal Town Planning Institute
The Planning Officers' Society
Environmental Protection UK
The Institute of Environmental Management and
The Environmental Law Foundation